Nearly half of all expectant mothers had a high BMI in 2022, according to statistics from Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen). The numbers have almost doubled since the 1990s.
In 2022, approximately 105,670 babies will be born in Sweden, a decrease of eight percent from the previous year. The average age of first-time mothers has risen to 29.8 years, while more 40-year-olds are giving birth.
More expectant mothers are also overweight or obese, the statistics show. In 2022, 46.8% had a high BMI, compared with 26.5% in 1993. A high BMI can lead to complications such as gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and even preterm delivery or cesarean section.
– This is a trend we have been seeing for several years and it does not seem to be slowing down. Since a high BMI poses risks for both mother and child, we see a need for more preventive work in society, increased knowledge among health professionals and initiatives in maternity care, says Anna Sandström, reporting physician at the National Board of Health and Welfare and assistant chief physician in obstetrics at Karolinska University Hospital, in a press release.
Overweight among expectant mothers varied regionally in the country, with 38% of mothers in Stockholm reported to be overweight, compared to about 54% in Södermanland, Norrbotten, Västernorrland and Gävleborg.
The number of children born by caesarean section will increase from 17.9% in 2020 to 19.1% in 2022. In particular, the number of emergency cesarean sections has increased.
– Because there are several reasons why a C-section may be necessary, it is difficult to tell from the statistics exactly what is causing the increase. But emergency cesareans are something you want to avoid if possible, so it’s important to look at it more closely, especially since we also see differences between regions and hospitals, says Sandström.
Most cesarean sections in 2022 were performed in Sörmland (22.4 percent) and Stockholm (21.9 percent). Östergötland and Jönköping had the lowest C-section rates at 13.8 and 13.1 percent, respectively.